Deap Vally on touring with Blondie and Garbage, women in music, and more

Deap Vally Chastain Park Atlanta
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Recently Guitar Girl was given the chance to get a behind the scenes sneak-peak on what it’s like to be the openers for such legends as Blondie and Garbage. Backstage at the Chastain Ampitheatre in Atlanta, I caught up with the two-piece bluesy garage rockers Deap Vally minutes before they took the stage. Previously opening for the likes of Marilyn Manson, Peaches, Wolfmother and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards formed Deap Vally in 2011 in Los Angeles. They released their debut album Sistronix on Island records in 2013 and released their second album Femejism last year which was produced by Nik Zinner of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

GGM:  How do you feel about touring with such legends as Blondie and Garbage and how did this pairing come about?

Julie:  Lindsey first met Shirley Manson at a nail salon. Lindsey told her about our band and she checked it out and became a really big fan of us. When she guest DJs on radio stations, she plays “Smile More” and she loved the title Femejism and says that she wishes she’d thought of it. So, when we were submitted for the tour, that helped. We just kept our fingers crossed because we knew that would be the most amazing thing. Then we lucked out, we got it!

Lindsey:  Yeah, I first met Shirley in a nail salon in LA. I think we had chatted on twitter before and we had mutual friends, so I introduced myself. Then we would run into each other and I knew she liked our band. So, yeah, I’m not sure how this tour came about but I’m sure it helped that she was a fan of the band. It’s been unbelievable. I’m really just trying to savor every moment of it. It’s so inspiring to be around both those bands and such talented people

Julie:  It’s like all the amazing things that happen to you- it’s a perfect storm and it’s always a conspiracy of elements coming together to make it happen. It’s a total dream come true. Everybody is really nice and awesome on the tour.

GGM:  Do you feel like you are learning from them? Have they had some words of wisdom for you both?

Lindsey:  Both of these bands are just so good live, and both have such great frontwoman with a great strong presence. It’s really inspiring just to watch them rule the stage every night and all the players in the band are totally fantastic. Butch Vig is a total legend so it’s been great to get to know him and talk to all of them about music. It’s been such a good opportunity for us.

GGM:  How was Deap Vally formed?

Lindsey:  We met seven years ago coincidentally through a knitting shop that Julie was working at and I went in there to take a crochet lesson. We had both been doing music for a long time. For me personally, I grew up playing music in a family band with my sister. Our Dad managed us, and my brother would play bass with us, so I grew up doing that. That was more kind of in the folk world- folk rock. I had taken a break from music and then I wanted to start doing it again around the time that I met Julie. I was trying to figure out how I wanted to approach it because I wanted to do a different style. So, when Julie talked about doing a rock band, I was stoked because I was really into Hole growing up and I was really inspired by ‘90s grunge and classic rock. So, I was really excited about doing that and putting down the acoustic guitar.

GGM:  Was your intention always to be a two-piece band?

Julie:  Our first jam was actually as a three-piece with our friend Ashley on bass and it was awesome, but she got really busy because she was a studio bass player and a touring bassist with Cee Lo Green and Filter. She was just busy and gone all the time, so we just decided to keep jamming- just the two of us.

Lindsey:  Yeah that was never the original intention it just ended up happening.

GGM:  How old were you when you first started playing?

Lindsey:  I was always singing from a very young age, as soon as I could talk. I started taking piano lessons when I was about four and a half, I think. I started playing guitar in 4th grade. My Dad taught me how to play “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” which is like three chords, and he got me a little acoustic guitar for Christmas.

Julie:  I took violin when I was around five, then I took piano. I did a lot of musical theatre and choral singing. I didn’t start playing drums until I was 25. My brother, his name is Greg Edwards, he was in Auto Lux and he was mostly a bass player. When I was a little kid I would hear him practicing fretless and slap bass through the air conditioning vent in my bedroom. There was always music happening. He always had gigs so that must be where my musical background comes from I imagine.

GGM:  How would you describe your style to people that haven’t heard Deap Vally before?

Julie:  Evolutionary, revolutionary rock and roll!

GGM: What were your influences growing up?

Lindsey:  So many. I think my all-time favorite band is The Beatles because they have so many diverse types of songs which are really cool, and I love that about them. I love classic rock- Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix. I grew up on all that stuff. Motown like Marvin Gaye and like I said Hole, Nirvana.

Julie:  Parliament, Funkadelic, NIN, John Lennon, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

GGM:  Speaking of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nik Zinner produced your album. Did he have a big influence over it?

Lindsey:  He’s really good at being a producer and bringing out the best in people depending on whatever their style is, but he’s certainly familiar with the guitars, drums, vocals set-up, you know? Because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were like that originally, so that’s great because not everyone is. Some people are like ‘we need to add a bass’ and ‘we need to add this and that’ and he doesn’t come from that world. So, he knows how to work with those parts. He was really inspiring. He really pushed us to write a lot and write our best stuff on the album. Some of it we would write in the studio where he would just record us jamming and then we would pick out the parts we like and make songs from that. So, kind of just writing on the spot under pressure.

GGM:  What is your usual songwriting process?

Lindsey:  It’s always different. For the first record, most of it we already had done before we went into the studio. Often how we write is live jamming- we work really well that way just playing off each other. Sometimes it’s different. Sometimes we bring parts to the table. We work really well with that live jamming pressure because my playing will be formed by what Julie is playing on the drums, and her playing will be formed by what I am playing on the guitar. It doesn’t always work, but when it works, it’s great. I feel like music in its most primal state is like that- it probably predates language. It’s just about people connecting and making sounds that work together.

GGM:  What current bands are you into?

Julie:  I like Parquet Courts a lot, I love Fat White Family and The Black Angels, Kurt Vile, Savages, Tame Impala, The Velveteers.

GGM:  Tell me about your stage outfits.

Julie:  It really came about because our friend Kittenhawk approached us saying she wanted to make our stage clothes. It started that way- just the notion of having specifically made stage costumes. I met Michell Rose at a show at the Old Handbag Factory, which became Seahorse, which is where we recorded most of our records, which was a total coincidence. I met her when they used to put shows on there years ago and she was dressed amazing. So, I went up to her and asked, ‘where did you get this’ and she was like “I made it.” That was the beginning of a very fruitful relationship. So, basically when we feel like we want new stage stuff and we have the budget for it, we get together and go fabric shopping. That’s always the first step. We pick fun fabrics and start talking about ideas. She makes the same shape for both of us in different fabrics with different tweaks so many times. The costumes have really evolved from the first album where we were dressed like hookers in the mad max era, just leather and cleavage and chains..

Lindsey:  Well, they were kind of like more super hero, like Wonder Woman super hero outfits.

Julie:  Yeah, showing a lot of skin. Now it’s more glam rock bodysuits and sequins. Just fun stuff that moves and shimmers in the lights. We wear our stage production- all the production value is in our costumes.

Lindsey:  I think we both just grew up with a love for well-dressed musicians. Jimi Hendrix always looked so good, Led Zeppelin …

Julie:  We were both like ‘well, we are putting on a show.’ Why just get up there in whatever you are wearing? That’s something that hasn’t made sense to both of us. It’s something we have in common- showbiz.

Lindsey:  I think you have to do something different than your normal day-to-day life.

GGM:  What’s the story behind your latest album titled Femejism?

Julie:  Well, I like to make up words with my free time and the word Feminism with men in the middle had been kicking around in my mind and had for a long time. Like if you took femenism and put the ‘MEN’ part in capitals was what I was specifically thinking of putting down for no particular reason. Then one day that just morphed into Femejism and I thought, ‘that’s special.’ Then it got to be the album title. It’s sort of a joke, like on the first album we were constantly asked about women’s empowerment and such. So, Femejism is like about that, it’s ambiguous and people have different reactions to it, but it’s also meant to be playful. Feminism is the “F” word and it has very strong connotations for everyone, however they’re perceiving it. I think we just see it as more of an inherent quality that everyone should have, like in a way it’s not a big notion that all people on earth should be given equal opportunity and be seen as equals whether be gender or color or whatever. That’s not a big revolutionary idea. It kind of seems like a no brainer, and that’s sort of what Femijism is. It’s like making fun of things that we should have moved way past already and hopefully will do.

GGM:  Have you found that perceptions of women have changed in the rock industry since you started out?

Lindsey:  I think they’re always changing, and I think like how they say progress doesn’t always follow a straight line. I definitely think that’s true. There’s more female rock bands out now but none of them are that big. Why is that?

Julie:  Yeah, like why don’t they catch fire the way that the guy rock bands do?

Lindsey:  Why is it easier for women in pop and certain genres to get bigger than it is for women in rock. Who knows?

Julie:  I think one thing with Spotify is that our similar artists on there are a lot of female fronted, whether it’s the same kind of music or not. Obviously, we are female-fronted, but we don’t see ourselves that way, we are a rock band. Like our similar artists should be high octane rock and rollers as that’s the kind of music we do. Somehow, we got ghettoized, generically speaking; because it’s female-fronted, it goes into some kind of algorithm of female-fronted music, you know?

Lindsey:  Yeah, it’s bizarre. I feel like our similar artists on Spotify don’t sound anything like us. We don’t have anything in common with them except that there’s a woman in the band, whereas the bands that we really did get compared to a lot when we first came out like The White Stripes, are not listed as our similar artists, so that’s kind of peculiar.

Julie:  We don’t want to alienate our fans who just love rock and roll and aren’t really going to get too worried about it being female-fronted or female empowerment. The fans for whom that is just isn’t the central issue. We make music for everybody who’s into headbanging and feeling righteous, so it’s been interesting. We are always analyzing where it’s at and where it’s going and what have we achieved, what are we struggling to reach, what’s the deal, you know?

GGM: What advice would you have for aspiring female musicians?

Julie:  I don’t think girls should be too worried about being girls. I think when Lindsey and I started playing music and got really into it, we weren’t specifically concerned with the fact that we were female. As a drummer, I would load in and people would assume I was the singer and I would have to tell them and then I started to realize, ok, this might be weird, this is different. But I think just do what you are passionate about, do whatever you want to spend your time doing, whatever you love that make you feel obsessed with and don’t get too caught up, don’t listen to what people tell you.

Lindsey:  I would just say that you have the luxury of when you’re young of not having to work a day job and have this time, so use as much of that as you can mastering your craft because you will be so ahead of the game. Practice in your room for hours and hours, experiment. It’s supposed to be fun, it’s good to practice, but also just learn songs that you love and have fun with it. Also, there are no rules, there is no right way or wrong way to play an instrument, I think. Don’t be afraid to be loud, too.

GGM: What equipment do you use?

Lindsey:  This is my backup guitar, this is a reissue Mustang. The one I use the most is an early ‘70s Mustang. I use a Fender Bassman Amp and a Fender Blues Deluxe reissue amp. I use those at the same time. Pedals are super fun and I definitely think that for guitar players, it’s good. If I’m ever stuck in a rut, getting a new pedal will always get me out of that. There are so many good pedals. We use a lot of fuzz like a Big Muff and I use an octave pedal- those are staples of Deap Vally, but there are all kinds of fantastic pedals out there that are all so cool- great tremolo pedals, phasers, delay pedals. The octave I use is a Boss pedal, Boss has great pedals. EarthQuaker Devices, Electro-Harmonix, ZVex- a lot of great boutique pedals.

Julie:  I play Gretsch drums, I have Zildjian cymbals, and Vater sticks.



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